Morning Joe hosts say Trump tried to blackmail them with National Enquirer hit-piece

Top White House aides promised the story would go away if they apologized to the President.

MSNBC screengrab
MSNBC screengrab

The Washington Post op-ed Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough penned in response to the sexist tweets President Trump posted Thursday morning mocking Brzezinski’s appearance contains a bombshell allegation: that Trump tried to blackmail them with a National Enquirer hit-piece.

“This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked,” they write. “We ignored their desperate pleas.”

During their show on Friday morning, the Morning Joe hosts provided more details.

“The president is friends with the guy that runs that National Enquirer,” Scarborough said. “And they said, ‘If you call the president up, and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike this story.’ I had, I will just say, three people at the very top of the administration calling me, and the response was like, are you kidding me? I don’t know what they have, run a story.”

Brzezinski said that the Enquirer called her teenage children and close friends in an effort to dig up dirt on her and Scarborough.

“These calls persisted for quite some time, and then Joe had the conversations that she had with the White House where they said, ‘Oh, this could go away,’” she said.

Scarborough said that tabloid journalists were even staking out Brzezinski’s house.

“After all this started happening, that’s when we started getting calls from the White House saying, ‘If you call, you need to call the president, and we’ll do what we can,’” he added.

Trump, who has live-tweeted Morning Joe in the recent past, responded to the segment on Twitter, and in the process acknowledged that he has some editorial control over the Enquirer.

Scarborough characterized Trump’s tweet as a “lie” and said he has the receipts to prove it.

As the New Yorker details, Trump is personal friends with Enquirer owner David Pecker, and Pecker steers the tabloid’s fawning, fact-free coverage of the president.

“Pecker and Trump have been friends for decades — their professional and personal lives have intersected in myriad ways — and Pecker acknowledges that his tabloids’ coverage of Trump has a personal dimension,” the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin reported. “Pecker is eager to use his media empire to help his friends, especially Trump, and unabashedly boasts about doing so.”

The Enquirer provided Trump with an unusual endorsement during the campaign. Pecker did things behind the scenes to help Trump as well. Last August, the Wall Street Journal reported that Pecker paid $150,000 to buy a story about Trump’s affair with a former Playboy model and then never printed it. It was seen as an effort to keep the story out of other publications.

UPDATE: The National Enquirer has released a statement denying that they ever threatened Scarborough or Brzezinski.

The publication also denied the New Yorker’s in-depth reporting about Pecker’s editorial role.